Two New York police officers were shot and killed on Sunday by a lone gunman in an ambush. The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, later shot himself with the very same gun in a subway. According to Brinsley’s social media post, the fatal assault on the policeman appears to be a revenge attack related to the chokehold case of Eric Garner.
The police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were killed while they were sitting in their patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn. The authorities say that Brinsley, who had previous records of crime like robbery and had been arrested several times, also shot his ex-girlfriend near Baltimore before heading towards Brooklyn to target the policemen. Before heading for his crime spree on Sunday, Brinsley wrote an angry rant about the US police on an Instagram post which read, “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours, Let’s Take 2 of Theirs.”
Although it had only been hours since the officers’ deaths, the blame game did not take too long to begin. The New York Police Department (NYPD) commissioner, William Braton and the city mayor, Bill de Blasio, called the attack on the officers an “assassination”. However, the leader of the city’s main police union, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), Pat Lynch blamed the deaths of the officers on the New York protesters (of the unarmed black men killed by the police) and the mayor of the city, de Blasio. Lynch, addressing a press conference, said there was “blood on their hands [of] those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest … [blood] on the steps of city hall, in the office of the mayor”.
A group of officers were seen turning their backs and facing a wall when the mayor walked by them to address a press briefing where he strongly condemned the attack on the officers. Lynch and the rest of the NYPD is accusing the mayor of putting the officers’ lives at risk because de Blasio supported the recent protests by the New York citizens over the killing of Eric Garner by a New York police officer who was not indicted.
While responding to the speculations about the gunman’s motives of it being a revenge killing for Garner, the civil rights campaigner, Reverend Al Sharpton, said: “I have spoken to the Garner family and we are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today. The Garner family and I have always stressed that we do not believe that all police are bad, in fact we have stressed that most police are not bad.”
Following the attack, the police union also declared that NYPD has now become “wartime” police and that they will act accordingly. By declaring themselves as “wartime” police, after two cops are killed in more than three years, what message is the NYPD sending across to the city’s inhabitants? To those very people who have been using peaceful measures to resist such oppression by the police? The citizens are outraged and are protesting in reaction to the police violence. Will behaving like “wartime” police elevate them in any way in the eyes of the people?
Violence, in any form, and inflicted on anyone, is inexcusable, be it a police officer or an unarmed black man. But if the police feel vulnerable and take drastic measures to ensure their safety, what of the people who feel threatened and scared by the very same police force which is entrusted to protect their lives? What should the citizens declare themselves as? They feel as outraged by the police killings as they are by the killing of Garner, and yet continue to use peaceful measures of protest. It’s time for America to put this unending cycle of violence to an end and not perpetrate it instead.
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